FAWCO Biennial Conference: The Butterfly Warrior
Mumbai, March 30–April 2, 2017
by Carol Strametz
FAWCO’s 43rd Biennial Conference held in Mumbai, FAWCO Region 11 (Asia/Pacific), was a huge success. The American Women‘s Club (AWC) Mumbai hosted the conference. The Conference Chairs Meenakshi Advani and Dottie Wagle, along with many gracious volunteers, worked hard for more than a year to ensure a memorable experience and received us with India-sized hospitality. The 2015–2017 FAWCO Board collaborated with the host club to put together a fully packed four-day agenda with workshop sessions, Annual General Meeting sessions, and amazing and inspiring speakers. Over 120 members attended (FAWCO, FAUSA and individual members). The AWC Hamburg had three delegates—Laura Langford, Tracy Moede and myself.
First, a few words about the host country: India, as a whole, has a total population of 1.35 billion. Mumbai has a population of over 20 million and its Dharvi slum is the third largest slum in the world, with an estimated one million people living in an area of less than one square mile. India’s population is young with more than 50% below the age of 25. The poverty is brutal and intense; it makes you want to reach out and help make a difference. The conference delegates were delighted to learn that three of the FAWCO Foundation‘s charitable grants were awarded to projects in India: American Women of Surrey-Hope Through Education went to the Rural Development in Anupshahr, India; American Women’s Group (AWG) Languedoc-Roussillon went to Feeding The World in Mumbai; and AWG Paris went to Youth Transforming in Galtare in India. An admirable goal of the AWC Mumbai is to engage in providing equal opportunity for disadvantaged girls and women in Mumbai, which is reflected in their generous support of seven Mumbai charities through funding and volunteer work.
“The Butterfly Warrior: Learn, Reach and Shine” was the theme of the conference. „The Butterfly symbolizes personal transformation…from her cocoon the butterfly emerges in her unfurling glory. A symbol of grace and tenderness, she brings the awareness and energy of another way of being. The Woman Warrior is the symbol of strength, wisdom and passion. She is autonomous, independent, strong-willed and powerful! The bold colors of the wings represent the global effort to bring change. ‚Learn, Reach and Shine‘ are words that speak to the overarching theme of the FAWCO Target Program 2016–2019: Education—Empowering Women and Girls through Knowledge and Skills.“ (Official Conference text) What an excellent opportunity to learn about girls‘ education, women and work in India—the themes addressed by the conference speakers.
Speakers Coordinator Jodie Sovak orchestrated a group of guest speakers who were amazing and inspiring. Jodie has a personal connection to everyone she chose and emphasized that each one she chose has a unique perspective. To name a few:
• Roopa Purushothaman, keynote speaker, is the founder of Avasara Academy, a school to develop leadership qualities of India‘s brightest young women. The school‘s motto is „Empowering girls of promise to lead lives of distinction and impact.“ Her talk entitled „My Avasara Journey,“ informed us about the challenges women in India face with respect to the country‘s current socio-economic factors, demographics, and future growth rates. Girls in India die at a rate 50% higher than boys due to neglect and lack of healthcare. Only 1% of girls in rural areas make it to 12th grade ... It‘s not about wealth, it‘s about mindset. Roopa holds a BA from Yale and MSc from the London School of Economics.
• Tina Trinka led the panel discussion on “Women and the Indian Growth Story“ with panelists Ipsita Dasgupta and Neera Nundy. It is important to remember that India‘s GDP has grown 500% in the last 20 years and that there are different levels of participation of Indian women in the workforce depending on education, social class and location (city or rural areas). The theme of the discussion was helping women in India determine their own paths in life. Tina is passionate about education and has recently published her first book. She holds a bachelor‘s from MIT and an MA from The Wharton School.
• Neera Nundy is co-founder of Dasra, an organization building the philanthropic ecosystem of India. She has published 22 research reports on education and health. She holds a BA from Harvard Business School.
• Natasha Sharma, an award-winning children‘s book author, spoke on “Gender Representation and Diversity in Children‘s Literature.“ She holds an MBA and was in corporate management before writing her best-loved children‘s books.
To learn more about the guest speakers and their presentations, see the Conference Coverage on the FAWCO website, https://www.fawco.org/about/ conferences/mumbai-2017. You must register and log in to view this information.
At Mumbai Masti opening night, we were introduced to another inspiring woman—Karen Doff, an American and the co-founder of the Aasha Foundation and the Sharanam Centre, a permanent residence in the Dharvi slum for 36 formerly destitute, neglected and abandoned girls. The Sharanam girls attend regular private schools and are confident, well-adjusted children who speak English, have computer skills, and enjoy extra-curricular activities. They performed for us during the opening night ceremony. Their performance can be viewed on the Aasha Foundation Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/aashafoundation/ videos/10156112296432907/)
There was an extensive and impressive offering of 75-minute workshops on themes relevant for FAWCO Member Clubs and their members:
• Several sessions focused on strengthening Member Clubs and the work of the FAWCO Reps: “Toolkit for FAWCO Reps,“ “Focus on Presidents‘ Achievements and Goals,“ “Forum for Club Presidents,“ “Working Together We Strengthen Our Clubs“ and “Spreading FAWCO Fever in Your Club.“
• Laurie Richardson brought us up-to-date on the work of the UN Team in „FAWCO at the UN.“ FAWCO supports the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030. For a fun, 2 ½-minute introduction to these watch “The Week in Rap Extra“ video. (https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=NVqD7MqO5Sg)
• Lucy Laederich FAWCO Counselor joined the “US Issues: Where Do We Stand“ session via Skype to moderate with the US team members.
• My-Linh Kunst, President of AWC Berlin and FAWCO Counselor, led a breakout session entitled “Women in Leadership: Leading from Within,“ which was about leading with your authentic self.
• Very touching, inspirational and motivational sessions “When Displacement Becomes Personal, Having a Plan“ were led by Louise Greenly-Copley and Tosin Arowoloju, and “Surviving and Thriving“ by Paula Lucas and Dianne Reed.
• Tara Ramaseshan—a Mumbai resident, author and public speaker—shared her passion for India‘s past and present in “Women Through Indian History: A Kaleidoscope of Stories.“
•The FAWCO Foundation offered the sessions “Target Fundraising: Get an Education!“ by Mary Adams and “Hints to Successful Grant and Award Application“ by Tracy Moede
Following are some of the highlights of the Annual General Meeting Sessions:
• The FAWCO Rep Appreciations Awards in recognition of ongoing commitment, dedication and achievement were presented to Cynthia Smith- Ayed (AIWC Casablanca), Kathi Savoury (IWC Antigua & Barbuda, not present) and Carol Strametz (AWC Hamburg). This was an absolute surprise for me. Thank you AWC Hamburg for nominating me! I am so honored to be your FAWCO Rep!
• There was great interest in the Resolutions and Recommendations 2017–2019. (https://www.fawco.org/about/how-we-work) These are the guidelines for FAWCO and Member Club action over the next two-year period and should be suitable for practical implementation. These have now been aligned with the mission statement.
• Inspiring Women
FAWCO’s new magazine has been launched!
Please sign up (https://www.fawco.org/about/publications/inspiring-women) to receive the electronic edition. Let‘s put our heads together so we can have AWCH women featured!
• The redesigned FAWCO website (https://www. fawco.org) was launched. It now has a clearer, contemporary look and is easier to navigate. Many thanks to our Cat Conner (AWC Hamburg), Laurie Brooks (AWC The Hague) and Christine Funke (AIWC Cologne) for the hard work and labor of love.
• “Hope Beyond Displacement” was announced as the 2017–2019 Target Project. It is a Collateral Repair Project (CPR), located in Amman, Jordan. The project is a grassroots effort to bring much needed assistance to refugee women and girls and other victims of war and conflict in Jordan, referred to as “collateral damage.” The presentation that Amanda Lane, executive director of CRP, gave at the FAWCO Conference in Mumbai is available as a 10-minute video.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJ_ dPl3StZw&feature=youtu.be) She takes us to the center of CRP and Hope Beyond Displacement in a heartfelt manner.
• The chairs of the Global Issue Teams gave impressive presentations of their work and goals. “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.“ (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) Slides of this presentation are posted on the website: https://www.fawco.org/images/stories/ conference/Mumbai 2017/conference_materials/ SA_05_FAWCO TASK FORCE presentation Mumbai.pdf (be sure to login)
• The elections of the new FAWCO Board (https:// www.fawco.org/about/who-we-are/board) and the FAWCO Foundation Board (http://www.fawcofoundation.org/about-us/proposed-slate.html) were announced. Congratulations to Tracy Moede, Vice President Programs on the Foundation Board. The newly elected FAWCO President Sallie Chaballier has sent out her first quarterly issue of Connections: Letter from Headquarters. She takes time to reflect on the Mumbai Biennial Conference and to look ahead to the 2017–2019 term. Her message about FAWCO is worth the read!
A “Heart of Gold“ was the theme of The FAWCO Foundation gala „fundraising“ evening, celebrating FAWCO Foundation‘s 50 years of giving. The guests/members adorned themselves with elegant golden attire. Fundraising for the Friendship Quilt, raffle tickets for the emerald ring, silent and live auctions, and the sale of conference souvenirs raised over $51,100 on the evening. The FAWCO Foundation supports the philanthropic goals of FAWCO by fundraising for and administering the programs that improve the lives of women and girls worldwide. It provides benefits to members through annual Education Awards and to Member Clubs through Development Grants. To learn about the recipients of the 2017 Education Awards, visit (http://www.fawcofoundation.org/our-programs/education-awards-2017/2017-ea-recipients.html) and the Development Grants (http://www.fawcofoundation.org/our-programs/development-grants-intro/2017-development-grant-recipients.html)
The FAWCO Interim Meeting will be held in The Hague on March 23-25, 2018. I hope that AWCH will have a big delegation. I truly believe it will be inspiring, interesting and fun! It is a fantastic opportunity to learn what FAWCO is about.